We’re excited to announce the results of the East Central District’s 44th annual Diamond Awards competition, which recognized public relations excellence in both campaigns and tactics. The Diamond Awards are open to any public relations professional who is either a member of the 17 Public Relations Society of America chapters within the East Central District or a non-member of PRSA whose place of business is within the district’s boundaries. The East Central District covers the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Congratulations to SORTA/Metro from the Cincinnati Chapter for winning the Best of Show award for “10 Days on 10 Routes” in the Events & Observances: 8 days or more category. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is a tax-supported, independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio and is a government entity. SORTA operates Metro fixed-route bus service and Access paratransit service for people whose disabilities prevent their riding Metro buses.

The complete list of winners is here. Congratulations to all!

The 2022 Diamond Awards program will open in summer 2022, so start preparing your submission now!



John Denver may have been unkind to our ECD brethren in Toledo when he called Saturday nights there “like being nowhere,” but he made some amends with his love song to West Virginia.

 I-64 may not be a typical “Country Road” but it takes you home to Charleston, the eagles’ nest of the Appalachians and pinnacle of the PRSA West Virginia chapter.

The chapter was founded in 1979 and serves the entire mountain state. Though the roads are like a rollercoaster ride, they all truly lead to Charleston, where Interstates I-64, I-77, and I-79 converge. Many PR pros find their way there to learn, work, or attend events.

West Virginia is so rich in wilderness that your arrival in Charleston is startling. Nestled between the hills and the Kanawha River is a city of 50,000, the largest in the state and the state capital.

But chapter leadership treats members like a big family, and that means sharing the love. They make a deliberate effort to spread chapter events across the state. Country roads lead to many homes, and after all, West Virginia is the “mountain mama.”

PRSA West Virginia is the ECD Chapter Spotlight for November 2021. Kaylin Staten, APR and chair-elect for the 2022 ECD board, is a member of the PRSA-WV Chapter and a past-president of the former River Cities Chapter.

PRSA West Virginia President Jennifer Goddard provided the Chapter Spotlight survey just as her chapter completed one of its signature events, the Nov. 16, 2021 Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media.

The honorees included Cathryn Harris, Joe Gollehon, and former ECD administrator Diane Slaughter, all APR and all PRSA Fellows. Charlie Ryan, APR, was inducted virtually.

“It was a hybrid event planned and executed beautifully by the PRSSA students at West Virginia University and supported by the Marshall and West Virginia State University PRSSA chapters,” said Jennifer.

“Members of our Hall of Fame represent the best of our profession through their career excellence, mentoring of others and community involvement demonstrated over decades,” Jennifer told West Virginia News. “They are the best of the best.”

Our ECD chapters are as individual as their environs. Shine the beam of the Chapter Spotlight on each chapter and the light will bounce back differently. It reflects the culture, personality, and organic innovations of each organization.

For PRSA West Virginia, the Hall of Fame inductions has become an opportunity to connects the wisdom of senior practitioners with the energy and ideas of those early in their careers.

“The Hall of Fame ceremony also supports the next, diverse generation of upcoming PR professionals — those who will follow in our footsteps and need our support and encouragement,” is how the chapter describes the connection.

“PRSSA Chapters at WVU, West Virginia State University and Marshall University are collaborating to raise funds for their chapters to support programming and assistance in membership fees. WVU PR students and their chapters of PRSSA are responsible for our ceremony as part of their capstone project.”

Before we turn to the PRSA West Virginia Spotlight Survey… a few words about this “mountain mama.”

It was country roads only when the Charleston area was settled by pioneers, who moved west after the Revolution. Fort Lee, the first permanent settlement, was built in 1788 by Col. Savannah Clendenin and his company of Virginia Rangers. Daniel Boone was an early resident and a member of the Kanawha County Assembly.

Legend has it that Charleston was first named “Charles Town” after Col. Clendenin’s father, Charles. It was later shortened to “Charleston” to avoid confusion with another Charles Town in the eastern part of the state, which was named after George Washington’s brother, Charles.

As rebrand brainstorming often go, “Chuck Town” never got any traction.

The discovery of salt brines along the Kanawha River, and the first salt well in 1806 created great economic growth.

Charleston, like much of western Virginia, was divided in loyalty and the dispute over slavery between the Union and the Confederacy. West Virginia broke away and became the 35th U.S. state in 1863.

The North wanted West Virginia for economic reasons. Heavy industry, particularly the steel business of the upper Ohio River region, depended on coal. Early in the Civil War, Federal units from Ohio marched into western Virginia solely to capture the coal mines.

A century and a half later, the debate continues about the future of energy, the economy, and the balance of power in a divided government.  Just ask Sen. Joe Manchin: you get a pretty good view from the Mountain State. His publicist is of course available to take your questions!


Give us a brief history of your chapter.

Our chapter was founded in 1979 and serves the entire Mountain State. At our peak in the mid-1990s, we had more than 150 members, four PRSSA chapters and more than 20 APRs. We are currently 79 members strong. 

Who are your current executive officers?

President: Jennifer Goddard, APR

President-Elect: Jordan Ferrell

Treasurer: Dr. Ali Ziyati

Secretary: Brett White

Describe your membership.

Our membership is quite diverse with many solo practitioners, corporate members, state government communications, non-profits and small businesses. 

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

Typically, we have a really strong Crystal Awards program with hundreds of entries, a festive gathering for the awards presentations and engagement across the entire state, involvement of students and professionals. 

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Like most, we moved programs online and offered free or discounted programs beginning in March of 2020. We quickly shifted a professional development program to all virtual in April. 

How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

We are developing our programs with an eye to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We partner with our Young Professionals and we are engaging students to help us keep all aspects of DEI in our programming, recruitment and membership goals. 

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?

We have developed a Hall of Fame, now in its third year. It celebrates the hard work of our long term members who have contributed to the growth and excellence in our state’s public relations legacy. Not only have we honored some outstanding professionals, we partner with the PRSSA chapters to plan and host the event. This gives students an opportunity to plan an important event, but they act as ambassadors to the honorees. The proceeds from the event are divided by the PRSSA chapters.  

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

At one time we had one of the highest percentages of APRs in the country. 

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Listening to our members and making conscious effort to fulfill our status as a statewide chapter. We have been deliberate in hosting events in every region of the state and removed the focus on the capital city. 

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you? info@prsawv.org



Holy Toledo! There’s a lot to love about the Glass City, it’s demilitarized Ohio-Michigan war zone, and the hard-working, big-hearted members of the PRSA Northwest Ohio Chapter.

The chapter was founded in 1951 by public relation professionals supporting the region’s industrial strength including the post-World War II momentum for the Jeep brand.

We know what came next in the late 20th century for many bustling midwestern towns. Declining manufacturing base and the demand to diversify to survive.

The Toledo region has adapted and grown, and so has the NWOH chapter.

It’s never easy. Chapter membership, now at 58, declined by about 30% through the pandemic.  It is holding ground with the leadership of Chapter President Becky Vogel, Ethics and Inclusion Chair Claire Morrow who provided this Chapter Spotlight Survey report, and the ongoing support of past-president Jared Meade.

Jared is founder and principal of Rayne Strategy Group and 2022 chair-elect of the ECD board.

“After serving at the chapter level for several years, I was inspired to join the ECD board in an effort to improve district relations,” he said, “especially for chapters that need find themselves in need of district/national organizational support.”

The chapter takes pride in its response to the COVID-19 disruptions.  It also deserves recognition for acting well ahead of the curve on the pursuit of diversity and inclusion.

Clair noted that in 2008 the chapter established a diversity chair position and surveyed the chapter to understand the mix of age, gender, specialty area, and racial or ethnic group.

“In 2020, it became increasingly clear that our chapter needed to not only continue to support DE&I efforts but to become actively anti-discrimination,” said Claire. “With guidance from Nationals, we were able to direct our membership to diversity resources and adopt a chapter-wide diversity statement.”

“Unfortunately, COVID set us back but also taught us new things,” said Claire when asked about the strong start in the 2008 survey. “We have a lot of work to do this coming year!  We had some great results from that survey. We’re currently trying to recreate similar survey participation going forward!”

Now, a look back.

In the 1807 Treaty of Detroit the region’s four Native American tribes ceded land surrounding the mouth of the Maumee River where Toledo later developed. 

Proposed construction of the Erie Canal in 1824 launched a fierce competition among small towns along the Maumee River to be the canal’s ending terminus. The towns of Port Lawrence and Vistula merged in 1833 to better compete and chose the name Toledo.

Toledo didn’t get the ending terminus, but it demonstrated brand research without the help of Google.

Popular legend says local merchant Willard J. Daniels suggested Toledo because it “is easy to pronounce, is pleasant in sound, and there is no other city of that name on the American continent.”

The chapter is “Northwest Ohio” but don’t be surprised to see Maize and Blue flying.

Depending on your point of view (and where you sit at “The Game”) Ohio won the Toledo War with Michigan for some land near Lake Erie.  Militias gathered at the border but never engaged and the only casualty was a Michigan deputy stabbed in the leg with a pen knife.

The attacker was a guy named “Two” Stickney who was defending his elder brother “One” Stickney. Ohio got the land, Michigan got the Upper Peninsula, and Toledo got “Stickney Avenue.”  It makes you wonder who the neighbors are at 1 and 2 Stickney Ave.

Toledo industry grew fast in the 1920’s but was hit hard by the Great Depression. WPA projects including the Toledo Zoo and Toledo Museum of Art still stand today.

Several Fortune 500 automotive-related companies had their headquarters in Toledo, but only one remains. Toledo is Jeep headquarters, GM has operated a transmission plant there since 1916, and Cleveland-Cliffs has invested $700 million into modernizing the local steel industry.

Toledo is known as the Glass City because of its long history of glass manufacturing. That corny “Holy Toledo” probably came from the city’s many fine church designs.

The town has a rich history in music, especially in jazz, but “Country Boy” John Denver gave the town a strange soundtrack.

Denver recorded “Saturday Night In Toledo, Ohio,” composed by Randy Sparks after spending a boring night in town. Denver got enough push back to cancel his Toledo concert.  But when he returned in 1980, he drew a record crowd and got big applause when he sang the Toledo song.

Maybe it was a show of Toledo’s open heart, second chances, and no hard feelings. But it might also have been their sense of irony.  They get it, they can take it, and they can give it back.

Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America was founded September 5, 1951, with 15 members representing such major Toledo-area corporations as Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., Owens-Illinois, DeVilbiss, Toledo Edison and The Toledo Blade, among others.

Members of the chapter exemplify the standard of professional qualification, as nearly 30 percent have achieved accreditation in public relations (APR). The Northwest Ohio Chapter maintains about 85 members who, through affiliation with PRSA, nurture individual professional development and guide their organizations, our community and society toward regarding relationships with all their various publics and one another.

Who are your current executive officers?

Becky Vogel, President

Sean Williams, President Elect and Program Chair

Allison Westhoven, Vice President and Membership Chair

Katie Blyth Hatcher, Vice President and Communications Chair

Kayla Lewandowski, Secretary and Treasurer

Claire Morrow, Ethics and Inclusion Chair

Kaylah Benore, Director-at-Large and PRSSA Liaison

Kari Bucher, Chapter Administrator

Describe your membership.

Although the chapter began with representation from major area industries, the composition of chapter membership has changed over the years. These changes include increased female membership as well as greater representation of small businesses and non-profit organizations.
Additionally, membership has moved from strictly a journalism education and experience to a range of educations and experiences in marketing and public relations.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our chapter was extremely fortunate to have connections to a variety of virtual presenters. After postponing our March 2020 meeting, we were able to seamlessly integrate these virtual programs into our schedule for the remainder of the year.
These virtual events allowed us to bring in speakers that would not have been feasible in a pre-pandemic world. From discussions about local development, deep dives into data and even the future of AI – the virtual world allowed us to bring in fresh and engaging programing.
In addition to diving head-first into virtual programming, we used our social media as a resource for industry professionals to find trustworthy sources, reference best practices for COVID-19 related issues and remind members that they have a network of support in PRSA.

How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

DE&I efforts have become increasingly important to our chapter. In 2008, the chapter established the diversity chair position and received a 50-percent response to a diversity survey that helped to determine the extent of diversity in the chapter by age, gender, specialty area and racial or ethnic group. Twenty-seven members attended the International Conference held in Detroit, where the chapter received an award for its growth in membership.

In 2020, it became increasingly clear that our chapter needed to not only continue to support DE&I efforts but to become actively anti-discrimination. With guidance from Nationals, we were able to direct our membership to diversity resources and adopt a chapter-wide diversity statement.

We are currently developing our DE&I strategy for the future and plan to consciously incorporate DE&I topics, conversations and resources into everything we do as a chapter.

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?  Why?

Our chapter’s biggest achievement to date would be our pivot at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I mentioned previously, our connections enabled us to jump into virtual programing and bring some truly amazing speakers to our membership. What started out as a challenge turned into a phenomenal professional development opportunity.

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

Some fun facts about our chapter include:

  • Approx. 30% of our members have achieved accreditation in public relations (APR).
  • Three members – Jim Little, Jim Richard and Dr. Jeanette Drake – have been elected to the prestigious College of Fellows
  • Our chapter has had four members who have served the society on the national board: Chris Hauser and Reg Jackson served as National Secretary, Don Connell was on the board and Jim Little served as president of the national PRSA. He has been one of only a few members from Ohio to lead the national organization as president.

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Our executive board prides itself on its efforts to stay in tune with our membership and community. We’ve all had a rough couple of years and our chapter has tried to remind our members to value their mental health, physical well-being and personal safety in light of a continually challenging professional environment.

We are constantly learning new ways to connect with our members and adapting to the ever-changing public health situation. More than anything, we know that our chapter feeds off personal interaction at meetings and events. We are tirelessly working to facilitate that same connection through our virtual programming and limited in-person events when possible.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?

Contact President Becky Vogel – bvogel@thejdigroup.com



QuickStart Leadership Conference 9-17-2021

In what we have come to know as the “new normal” the 2021 QuickStart Leadership Conference was yet again a virtual format. The ECD board looked at the bright side: a compact session for attendees, a virtual jet-setting crowd of speakers (hello, London calling!), pennies-on-the-dollar cost comparison, and above all, continuity. Pandemic be damned, the show carries on!

ECD chair John Palmer opened the conference with a review of ECD board accomplishments. “DEI initiative kicked off this year and the board has been very active on the topic,” said John. “We’re working on a program for DEI chairs in October. No journey is too long with the right company.  It’s always a great collaboration to have working with PR pros.

But First a Word from Our Sponsor… Butler University Master’s in Communications Program

Mark Rademacher from ECD sponsor Butler University took the floor to talk about the master’s in communication program.  “It’s 100% online and built for working pros,” he said.  He outlined a program of intensive courses; optional weekly zoom meetings; the 10-course program can be completed in 20 months. There are 5 required foundational courses; 5 elected courses to tailor experience for goals. Admission counseling focuses on good fit; it’s a small program with no more than 25 students in a cohort.

Membership Recruitment and Retention with PRSA membership chair Bart Graham:

“Crickets” said Bart was the response to his call for volunteer outreach from PRSA. “How do we retain the members we have?” he asked.

He called membership a four-legged table: recruitment/retention/volunteering/engagement. “Think about it this week – you’re going along as a chapter, you’re recruiting like crazy, but you have to engage them and have to keep them.”

Bart’s WETP approach: Welcome new members and guests; Engage with all, be Prompt with your welcome, Thank members and guests.

What has worked: Reaching out by LinkedIn and network; spotting new members weekly on the national directory and reaching out; not being shy about “volun-tolding” someone! Use LinkedIn messaging. Quarterly contacts with chapter or section members; starting small member meetups with COVID guidelines; zoom chats apart from regular programming is popular.  Work closely with chapter presidents. Bart says, “It helps to have a screw loose!”

“Anything to get members out to a meeting or chapter chatting with each other,” said Bart. “Single stay-at-home mom for example, is struggling on how to do this.  I’m always thinking of new and different things to do. As long as it’s legal, they pretty much let me do it!  They know me and usually run the other way because they know I’m going to ask them to volunteer for something!”

Emotional Intelligence: 5 Leadership Skills Communication Pros Must Know with coach Heather Evans:

Heather said there are five pivots, five choices you can make to set into the strongest leadership position, your strongest self. Each one is about communication. Emotional intelligence and deep leadership begin inside ourselves and with communication.  There is a sea change in leadership today, and how to step into leadership.

Anchors to leadership are about ways to communicating, about “languaging.” Language carries with it intent and creates change.

5 Pivots are CLEAR:

Challenge vs. Opportunity

Listening to Inner Critic vs. Coach

Emotional armoring vs. emotional intelligence

Autopilot vs. Conscious leadership

Response-based listening vs. listening to understand

  1. Challenge vs. Opportunity: the neurobiology of leadership.

Stress, anxiety, irritably (amygdala) blocks the neocortex creative center of the brain from rational thinking.  If we are going to step into strength of leaders, we must claim ownership over our own minds.

More dominion over our minds need resilience, trust/safety/innovation.  Gateway is self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Small tweaks have big impact (Japan’s Kaison way).

We don’t have to feel overwhelmed.  A small tweak is what these pivots are. So you are not cutting off access to your most resilient self.

2. Listening to Inner Critic vs. Coach: Exercise: take 3 or 4 deep breaths/hold/exhale.

Leaders have mastery over the inner conversation.

Notice pattern of negative thinking and shift the other way.

Between stimulus and response is a gap.  That’s where real leadership lies: our response to everything around us.

The voice is yours. I’m in charge, it doesn’t get to run me. Who am I listening to? Is it my inner critic? The inner coach has a different voice.

Recognize inner strengths.  IC is trying to protect us from doing something wrong, looking foolish, feeling shame.  When in balance, notice we don’t want IC to go away, but keep in balance (out of balance, it is a perfectionist, highly critical; rule maker, opinionated observer).

What is one good thing that could happen if I was less critical?

Asking yourself questions that require you to think puts you into your highest brain capability.

3. Emotional armoring vs. emotional intelligence: signs – anger, being right, trying to control – protective mechanism too. Result is lot of toxicity.

Toxin – behavior – antidote

Toxin: blaming, defensiveness, stone-walling, contempt

Behavior: attack, victim, withdrawal, hostility

Antidote: soft start, open mindset, curiosity

Personal responsibility, curiosity 2% truth

Courage, speak up, transparency, coaching

Highly damaging to giver and receiver, personal development

Coming in with curiosity triggers neocortex.  Ticket out of defensive position is personal responsibility. Get more curious about that.

2% truth – feedback may be negative, feel defensive, but what if there was just 2% truth to it – what could I take out of that?

Courage to speak up, may help to have coaching.

What situations bring out this toxin in you? in your team?

The antidote to armoring is curiosity.

4. Autopilot vs. Conscious leadership

Conversation starters: the story I made up… I’m curious… tell me more… I’m wondering… help me understand.  Walk me through that… WHAT IS YOUR PASSION AROUND THIS? Tell me more about this…  tell me why this doesn’t work or doesn’t fit for you…

Words change your brain

Disempower language vs. owner language

I should, I ought to, I have to… swamped, stress… get through… (now running on less capacity)

Shift to owner: intend to… I choose to… I want to… (uses what I’m going to get from this, what is the gift in the garbage? How can I use this?  How can this situation strengthen me? Owner language changes our brain.

5. Response based listening vs. listening to understand

No. 1 complaint about relationships – not listening.

Part of not listening is you already think you know.  Our perception is accurate and complete. There is a different scenario to everything, but we believe our perception is complete and that impacts our ability to listen.

3 levels of listening

Level 1 – internal – Attention is on your thoughts, feelings and interpretations.

Level 2 – focused – periodically checking accuracy of your understanding.

Level 3 – global – encompasses the environment, your senses.

Perception Checking:  I hear you say… is that accurate? If I’m hearing you accurately you mean… How does what I’m saying fit for you?

Mind reading: I heard you say… which means…  it seems you are saying this that means that.

Unconditional Positive Regard (assuming positive intent)

Neutrality – key if on the receiving end of feedback – recognize all feedback is just information. Ask clarifying questions, etc. is strength of leadership.

Leadership is a mindset.

4-part process: objection – contraction – exploration – buy-in:

Objection: “this cannot be good” is stress response.

Contraction: “I don’t really want to deal with this.”

Exploration: “How can I make this work for me?”

Buy-in: “I have figures out how I can make this work for me, and for others (team).”

Game-changing transformation leadership.

Coaching exercise: think of challenge, explore choices making no commitments, prize yourself for being willing to go for the learning.

And now a word from our sponsor: StarChapter Update by Rebecca Chadwick:

The challenges to volunteer leaders this past year has been great. They value StarChapter for much more virtual engagement and its convenience. StarChapter helps increase membership, revenue, attendance, value, insights; decrease learning curve, effort, time, redundancy.

The Difference between Authentic DE&I Recruitment and “Pandering” with Barbara Phillips:

Authentic recruitment has broadened out to the culture, said Barbara in her presentation from London.

Privilege:  We all have privilege.  “When you are accustomed to privilege, discussion of DEI can feel like oppression.”  No one needs to be shamed, feel uncomfortable; but like any transformation program, it may feel uncomfortable.

Barbar said the UK has 9 protective characteristics enshrined in law. There is only one group that is actually pandered to, by definition of the word pander, and that is the white male, heterosexual with the most advantage in workplace.

Clean up before inviting folks over.

See what’s there now in your organization and clean it up. Global mindset – not just geographic, but universality. Global mindset indicated by qualities – openness; awareness of your culture’s impact on other cultures, especially if yours is the dominant culture; global understanding; treat others as they want to be treated.

Look at the bricks of your organization and acknowledge you would like to be diverse but may not be. You cannot do anything about recruitment until you understand what is going on inside the organization and the corporate structure.  DEI strategy must be imbedded in corporate strategy (it’s not just about tactics).  Draw a line under it and start again. Re-imagine it. Accountability, and share success.

Questions to ask yourself or clients if you want to be diverse:

  1. Why is our leadership in the pipeline so white and so male?

There is no talent pipeline problem.  Why do we think there is a pipeline issue?

  • What is your organization doing about pay gap?  If same job pays more for another individual, why is that?
  • Why are there practices that allow discrimination, and why are we not holding anyone accountable?
  • Why isn’t there more lived experience in those in organization speaking for DEI?


  1. How hard would it be to actually find meaningful board representation?
  2. How hard is it to find visible representation among senior leadership?
  3. How hard is it to establish a safe environment for all employees?
  4. Performance procedures, evaluations that disadvantage groups – what are you doing to dismantle that?
  5. How hard would it be to commit and finance long-term culture change and transformation? (where all employees can succeed uninhibited).

Social media has opened up messaging about what is happening inside the organization.  One continuum of message: make sure it is consistent. No one is immune from this. Lived experience representation is changing.

Pay gap is one process.

Creating meaningful support groups are only worth having if members of the group are allowed to be part of the decision making that affects them. Include them.

Visual representation – look at the black and brown bricks at bottom of your triangle and figure out why they are not higher up.  You cannot conduct any meaningful DEI strategy unless you consider this.

Meaningful board representation. Recruit from within; don’t assume someone is comfortable remaining in one position. Speak to people in the community – they will tell you who to recruit. If you want talent to be diverse, make room for them, expand for them. Don’t box everyone in for low level job, etc. Sometimes skip levels. Go down, some people haven’t been given the opportunity.  Something may be oppressing opportunity within the organization.

Psychologically safe environment means you can be authentic, no fear of being authentic, can take risks, path ethically is clearly defined.

Grievance procedures awarded behaviors – check how they compare, check that with the cultures.

Micro-aggression – everyone knows it exists. If someone comes to you, believe them.  They have thought long and hard about coming to you.

Authentic recruitment- demand more from your recruiters.  Demand more if list is not good enough. It is up to the client to demand more; access different networks; partner with them not patronize.  Go public with your intent and ask for support.  We need you to support us.

Make sure DEI is represented in your mission, values, operating procedures.

See diversity of candidates and use that knowledge in your solution. Don’t underestimate the grapevine – what is being said about your organization.  Employees will absolutely talk to new recruits.

You have to look at your organization first and go out there and make sure you understand the culture.

If serious look at PIP.

Feedback Time in the President’s Forum:

Chair-elect Jared Mead said the 360 Survey revealed membership recruitment/retention as central concern of all chapters.

What is the impact of the cost of membership?

Bart said money factors it into it. “I hear people saying my company isn’t paying for it anymore. Chapters are doing something different for hardship. Some people simply forget. Reach out to members. It is COVID and we hope it comes back but can’t guarantee it.”

Megan Bonelli said members ask, “Will we meet in-person again?” It’s hard to be on camera all day. The level of communication can be a lot.  Multiple emails per week. Videos can take time. Member organizations were in decline ahead of COVID. Small groups, committees? We’re out of fresh ideas right now.

Bart’s final word of advice: Keep track of members and engage.



The East Central District will hold its first-ever, virtual D&I Chair Chat on Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 11:45 am to 1 pm.

The virtual event will feature Carmella Glover, president of the Diversity Action Alliance. Glover will share the results from the benchmark report released this summer and tell us how to use the results and other resources to help recruit, retain and engage under-represented populations in our chapters.



The “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” tag line debuted in 1988 and marked the beginning of the end for the Olds brand, killed off by GM in 2000.  Slate called it a case for a how a strongly identified brand can over time become its undoing.

Olds tried to distance itself from its reputation for middle-class achievement status and ended up with no clear identity, alienated loyalists, and the old brand carved into its headstone.

That’s not the way PR is done these days in Lansing, the state capital and the sixth largest city in Michigan.

The Lansing metro is an educational, cultural, governmental, commercial, and industrial center. Neighboring East Lansing is home to Michigan State University with an enrollment of more than 50,000.

Central Michigan PRSA has its hub in Lansing but serves the diverse Mid-Michigan area of the state. The chapter proudly claims Michigan State Advertising/Public Relations Professor Andrew Corner, who will be formally inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows in October.

CMPRSA Past President Greg Rokisky represents the chapter’s energetic young leadership. Greg now serves as a director on the ECD board.

It took an abundance of energy and distinct leadership for CMPRSA to pull off a prompt pivot early in the COVID-19 pandemic to virtual programming.  “Our chapter’s members have repeatedly told us in surveys that programming is one of the major draws to our organization,” said Chapter President Jessica Tramontana in the Chapter Spotlight survey.

That included a trend-setting decision to take the PACE Awards to a virtual platform. “In 2020, our chapter was one of the nation’s first to host their annual awards program virtually,” said Jessica.

CMPRSA then leaned in powerfully to a central cause of our time by creating the “Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion” position for the Chapter and naming Camara Lewis to fill the role.

“The IDEA Champion is a pivotal role to ensure diversity of thought and participation is found within all of our professional development activities,” said Camara. It included fresh policy, professional panel discussions, and speaking out against hate.

The chapter looks forward to moving past COVID and returning to more social, in-person times.  With “Sparty” down the road at Michigan State the lure may seem to be tailgating. But CMPRSA actually gets a bigger kick out of kickball. More on that in the chapter Fun Fact!

CMPRSA’s secret to happy chapter is an open secret.  They want to know what you think, and they want to be current with the demands of the time.

Looking back on the “Not your father’s” days in Lansing, there is no shame in the Olds name.

The founding of the company in 1897 turned Lansing into an industrial powerhouse. Founder Ransom Old’s spin-off REO Motor Car Company brand lasted another 70 years.

The city transformed into an industrial center for manufacturing automobiles and parts, among other industries and by 1956 doubled in size. Today, Lansing’s economy is diversified among government service, healthcare, manufacturing, insurance, banking, and education.

Not bad for the original “Biddle City,” a non-existent town on flooded swamp land, invented by scam artists.

In 1835 two brothers from Lansing, New York plotted floodplain land, underwater most of the year, and sold it to 16 men back in Lansing, describing it as a full city with town square. Too embarrassed to go home, the scam victims settled nearby in what is now metropolitan Lansing.

In 1847 Michigan looked to move the capital from Detroit to a more central and safer location. Frustrated by the political wrangling, lawmakers privately chose the tiny Township of Lansing.

It calls to mind Olds final slogan from 1999: “Start Something.”


Give us a brief history of your chapter.

CMPRSA was founded in 1977 by a handful of local public relations professionals. A beginning mission statement of the chapter stated its purpose was “an association through which public relations practitioners interact, develop professionally, support members and the community, and strengthen the profession.” Our chapter currently boasts over 150 members. 

Who are your current executive officers? 

Jessica Tramontana, APR- President

Ally Caldwell- President-Elect, Secretary

Greg Rokisky- Past President

Lisa Biering – Treasurer

Katherine Japinga – Assistant Treasurer

Camara Lewis – Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion

Monica Ackerson, APR – Assembly delegate  

Describe your membership.

CMPRSA’s membership is a diverse group, composed of public relations professionals in higher education, associations, state and local government, agencies and more. 

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

Each year, CMPRSA hosts its annual awards program and fundraiser, the PACE Awards. The PACE Awards are mid-Michigan’s highest honor of public relations activities and are awarded annually to practitioners who, in the judgment of their (out-of-state) peers, have successfully addressed a contemporary issue with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness. More than 300 organizations have been recognized for excellence in public relations over the past three decades. Non-profit organizations, corporations and public and private agencies in an area spanning eight counties can enter.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our chapter’s members have repeatedly told us in surveys that programming is one of the major draws to our organization. Our programming committee chairs have worked hard to deliver content, speakers and networking opportunities to members in a virtual capacity to accommodate and recognize different comfort levels in the midst of a global pandemic. 

In 2020, our chapter was one of the nation’s first to host their annual awards program virtually. Originally scheduled for April, the first-ever virtual ceremony was held in June. Our event committee worked diligently to maintain the integrity of the event, while recognizing the program’s winners and sponsors. A post-event survey found that our members felt the event was a great way to feel connected in celebration of 2019, while also maintaining a safe environment during the pandemic. 

How has your chapter leaned into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Camara Lewis – Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion:

In late 2019, CMPRSA adopted a brand new inclusion policy as our chapter continues to recommit ourselves to the work of a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community for every practitioner we serve in the greater Lansing and Mid-Michigan region. Our board continues to review this policy and enact change where and when it makes sense.

Part of our DEI goals is to attract, maintain and engage a diverse and ethical demographic to our region. The first step to upholding our values was to ensure the Inclusion, Diversity, Ethics and Advocacy (IDEA) Champion was part of the executive team.

The IDEA Champion is a pivotal role to ensure diversity of thought and participation is found within all of our professional development activities. Adding the IDEA Champion to the executive committee not only adds a voice to the most strategic level of CMPRSA it ensures the position is filled in accordance with bylaws.

Continuing our DEI efforts this year we wrote a statement of support to the BIPOC community, spoke out against Asian (AAPI) hate and hosted a panel on accountability with four black women public relations practitioners who offered sincere and direct feedback to virtual participants on being better advocates and allies. 

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

In August 2019, CMPRSA coordinated a kickball game against the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Detroit Chapter. SPJ Detroit Chapter won, and future games have been delayed due to COVID-19, but it was a creative and fun way for public relations practitioners to connect with journalists. 

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

Surveying your members to use research to meet and deliver on member’s expectations.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?

Jessica Tramontana
cell (517) 974-6302
Go Green! Go White!


PRSA Fellow Awarded District’s Annual Platinum Award

East Central District Board of Directors selected Jaron Terry, MS, APR, PRSA Fellow (Central Ohio Chapter) as the honoree of this year’s Platinum Award.

Jaron Terry, MS, APR, PRSA Fellow (Central Ohio Chapter)

ECD’s Platinum Award recognizes outstanding professional service among district PRSA members. Every year, the ECD presents one Platinum Award in honor of former national PRSA board member and ECD board chair Donald P. Durocher, APR, Fellow PRSA. In Durocher’s memory, the district board recognizes a practitioner who has achieved a distinguished service record and is clearly identified as a role model for other professionals through chapter, district, and national service.

Jaron is an innovative collaborator, practicing public relations at the highest strategic, creative and ethical levels for four decades. An entrepreneur and veteran, she is an authentic, dedicated practitioner, teacher, mentor and friend. An independent practitioner since 1995, Jaron is president of Jaron Terry Communications where she utilizes the full gamut of public relations and marketing communications tools to favorably position organizations within their target markets. Specializing in health care, she is well-versed in strategic planning, media relations and marketing communications, and is an accomplished speaker and writer with numerous awards, including Central Ohio PRSA Tom Poling Practitioner of the Year.

Additionally, she enthusiastically champions APR, and actively mentors peers, young professionals, PRSSA students and her own nontraditional students as an adjunct professor at Franklin University.

Jaron is a champion for diversity and inclusion. She seeks opportunities to educate and inform fellow colleagues about diversity and inclusion initiatives wherever possible, helping to make the profession more well-rounded. She was a key driver in starting the Central Ohio PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which has received national recognition, and has been a presenter on this topic multiple times for organizations all around the country.  

Jaron holds a BS in Mass Communications, magna cum laude, and an MS in Media Management, from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Her nominator shared, “Jaron worked tirelessly throughout her career and is deeply passionate about advancing the PR profession. As an independent practitioner, she guides her clients to enhance their business success while communicating inclusively and effectively. Her work has been recognized with local and national awards.  She is passionate about growing and cultivating the next generation of PR professionals. She is one of the hardest working individuals and cares deeply for this profession. Simply put – our PR community is better because of Jaron’s leadership and contributions.”

Jaron joined PRSA in 1981 at the Richmond, Virginia, PRSA chapter. She transferred her membership when she moved to Columbus in 1986, and she immediately became involved with the Central Ohio chapter with committee service. Since that time, she has served in various roles from a local, district and national level. 

She is a sought-after speaker and regularly presents at the regional level to chapters within the East Central District and across the country, most notably regarding implicit biases and diversity and inclusion. 

Talking about diversity and implicit bias can make some people uncomfortable and reluctant to dive deep for fear of saying the wrong thing. Others want to have an open and honest discussion about how implicit (or unconscious) bias can negatively affect not only our workplace lives, but our personal lives, too, but are concerned about being “politically correct” and so say nothing. Jaron has successfully led several leadership forums in partnership with Gayle Saunders, APR, and Shanikka Flinn, on this topic for the East Central District and other local PRSA chapters. 

Jaron recently spoke at the Kansas City PRSA Chapter on the topic: “From Statements to Action to Anti-Racism: The Communicator’s Role.” The panel presentation provided attendees with substantive takeaways to encourage increasing inclusion from the executive level to the front line, making awareness of implicit (unconscious) biases part of organizational culture, and implementing eight actions to encourage anti-racism from execs to the front line.

Additionally, she has presented and moderated events within the Central Ohio PRSA chapter. Recently, she moderated a discussion in June 2021 on “Showing Support for the LGBTQ+ Community through Informed Communications.”

Jaron (right) with MJ Clark, APR, PRSA Fellow (Central Ohio Chapter and 2014 honoree of Platinum Award), and PRSA ECD Chair and PRSA Central Ohio member John Palmer, APR, at a Central Ohio Chapter event in 2016 when MJ and Jaron were recognized for being inducted into the College of Fellows. 

PRSA Chapter Service: 

Jaron has been an integral member of the Central Ohio Chapter for four decades. She has served the chapter in various leadership roles, including: Ethics Officer, an assembly delegate for three terms, a member on the Board of Directors from 1995 to 1999 and 2009 to 2011, and a founding member of the Master’s Committee. Jaron served as the president in 2010 during the chapter’s 60th anniversary. 

As the 2016 Ethics Officer, Jaron co-led a task force along with board member and current Ethics Officer, Gayle Saunders, APR, to explore and implement the chapter’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative. A formal committee was set up at that time to promote diversity and inclusion in the PR profession, support PR professionals from diverse backgrounds, and educate our members through timely, relevant content and educational programs. The committee has received national PRSA recognition three times, due to the involvement of Jaron and committee members. The chapter introduced its first D&I Officer position in 2020. 

Jaron is passionate about discussing how our workplaces and PRSA can achieve diversity and inclusion and the importance of it. As a member of the Central Ohio PRSA Chapter’s D&I committee, Jaron has worked with her fellow committee members to:

– Host quality programming on various topics, including: “Getting it Right: Writing and Communicating To, About and With the LGBTQ community,” “Uncovering and Confronting Implicit Biases,” and “Creating Inclusive Campaigns,” “From Statements to Action to Anti-Racism: The Communicator’s Role in Making the Statement a Reality”

– Provide a comprehensive list of resources about racism to members 

– Add a Diversity & Inclusion category to the chapter’s annual PRism Awards

– Author articles for PRSA National’s Strategies and Tactics and Central Ohio PRSA 

– Provide implicit bias training to the Board 

– Help ensure diverse representation in programming

In addition to her committee support and leadership roles, Jaron’s work has received several PRism Awards, Central Ohio PRSA’s awards program. In 2011, Jaron was named the Tom Poling Practitioner of the Year, which is the chapter’s most prestigious honor and recognition.

PRSA Service: 

Not only is Jaron actively involved on the local PRSA level, but she also dedicates her time and talents to serving national PRSA. 

Jaron was named to PRSA’s national-level Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) committee in 2016 and currently serves as the co-chair. The committee is devoted to building consciousness by increasing visibility of D&I standards, resources and best practices for racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation and gender differences, as well as diverse skillsets, mindsets and cultures at all levels of the organization.

In 2016, Jaron earned PRSA’s highest distinction by being inducted into the College of Fellows, an honorary organization within PRSA composed of more than 250 leading professionals and educators who have left a significant footprint on the public relations profession. 

Jaron also is a regular presenter at the national level presenting through PRSA-led webinars and at ICON. In May 2021, she presented on a panel discussion focused on uncovering implicit bias to achieve PR success. During the webinar, the panelists discussed how our workplaces and PRSA can achieve diversity and inclusion goals by uncovering our own implicit biases, building diverse teams, and recognizing the value and strengths in cultures we consider different.

Jaron has spoken for several ICON presentations and will be a featured speaker during this year’s international conference presenting on the topic of “Understanding the ABCs of DE&I: Allyship, Bias and Civility.” In 2020, she presented at ICON on “Getting it Right: Diversity & Inclusion in LGBTQ+ Inclusion.” Jaron also spoke at the 2017 PRSA International Conference on “Proudly Said – Writing and Speaking for LGBTQ Inclusion.” 

In addition to her many presentations, Jaron also is a frequent contributor and author to national PRSA and industry publications on relevant public relations and diversity and inclusion topics.

PRSSA Service: 

Jaron is recognized as a teacher and mentor to other professionals within the industry. 

She is a long-standing member of Champions for PRSSA, which is designed to reinforce strong and productive relationships between professionals and students. As a Champion of PRSSA, she gives back to the profession by regularly meeting with and supporting students through PRSSA. 

In addition, Jaron has served as an adjunct professor at Franklin University since 2010, teaching public relations courses online and face-to-face, including Media and Crisis Communications, as well as an undergraduate elective course, Creative Thinking. At Franklin University, she also serves on the Public Relations Advisory Board for the College of Arts, Sciences and Technology. 

Jaron enjoys counseling students – from Franklin University, as well as, from local PRSSA chapters – about their career goals and providing guidance to them as they enter the workforce. Jaron also is passionate about expanding opportunities for making the public relations field more diverse and inclusive. 

# # #



Historically, Cincinnati is a town made for PR.  When your founding fathers name you “Losantiville” (a Latin-Greek word puzzle about proximity to the Licking River), you know you have some work to do.

Your burgeoning meat-packing industry earns you the nickname “Porkopolis.”  Even the culture-bolstering “Queen City of the West” campaign had its limitations when you’re 2,400 miles from the Pacific. (Note: Cinci may not be San Francisco, but it once had five cable cars).

Give credit to General Arthur St. Clair, a member of the society that honored the Roman leader Cincinnatus, for recognizing “an awful name, damn it” and providing a welcome rebranding!

But Cincinnati is an American original.  It survived the years when it truly was the wild, wild west. By 1800 it could boast a French pastry chef and a hairdresser. German and Irish settlers helped create a diverse and worldly population. Fugitive slaves traveled across the Ohio River and through the city searching for freedom in the North.

By 1900 it was the most densely-populated city in the U.S. By 2000 it was the home of multiple major corporations (shopped for P&G products at Kroger lately?)  The city’s wide variety of employers has served as a hedge against economic downturn and the Queen City keeps rolling along like the Ohio River.

Even through a pandemic.

“Some might say that as PR pros, we were built for the chaos COVID-19 threw at us,” PRSA Cincinnati Chapter President Brandy Jones tells us in the August ECD Chapter Spotlight.

“Our membership was looking to PRSA for solutions,” she said, and the chapter was resourceful in its pursuit of answers.  Cincinnati not only embraced the new normal of going virtual, they dug deep into the content.  

They thought to address, “messaging sensitive information regarding those who became ill or died as a result of COVID-19,” according to Brandy. “Our chapter stepped up to bring in top-level experts, and industry leaders to provide tips and resources.”

Commitment to DEI starts at the top of the chapter. “As our chapter’s first African American president,” said Brandy, “it is not lost on me the significance of the role and the responsibility that comes with it to ensure that the work we do as a chapter reflects the change we want to see throughout the industry.”

More details about these endeavors are in the August ECD Chapter Spotlight on Cincinnati. You’ll learn three big reasons for chapter pride; a little known fact about the chapter regarding an historic address by an esteemed centenarian; and a little bit about baseball.

You see professionals of all walks in Cincinnati know there is no better way to let off a riverboat gush of steam then by gathering after work at a Reds game.

Yes, the Big Red Machine can manufacture an industrial-size amount of fun. “You get out of PRSA what you put in,” is the motto for PRSA Cincinnati.  “There’s no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks told us famously in “A League of Their Own.” As this happy chapter has learned, there are no strangers at a Reds game.


Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The Cincinnati Chapter was founded in 1951 and currently has 143 members.

Who are your current executive officers?

President: Brandy Jones, APR

President-Elect: Bridget Kochersperger

Vice President, programming: Sara Cullin, APR

Immediate Past President: Robin Klaene, APR

Accreditation Director: Allison Schroeder, APR

Community Service Director & New Pros Chair: Tiffany Luckey

Director-at-Large: Rob Pasquinucci, APR

Diversity Director: Suzanne Boys, APR

Ethics Director: Shara Clark

Finance Director: Tess Brown

Membership Director: Jenifer Moore

Blacksmith Awards Co-Chair: Elizabeth Desrosiers

Blacksmith Awards Co-Chair: David Honchul, APR

Content Strategist: Annie Efkeman

Digital Strategist: Lauren Hall

Media Day Co-Chair: Zach Stipe

Media Day Co-Chair: Will Jones

Sponsorship Chair: Barbara Grimsley, APR

Describe your membership.

We currently have 143 members in our chapter and are growing. Our members include recent graduates to professors and CEO’s representing just about every sector of the industry, such as sport communications, corporate communications, non-profit and agency among others.

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

Each year we hold our annual Media Day seminar, which provides an opportunity for practitioners to sit across from local, and on occasion, even national reporters to learn how to best work with them to increase the odds of coverage. This seminar also provides practitioners with new tools and tips from their fellow PR pros who have had success launching major projects and campaigns, as well as lessons learned from crisis situations.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Some might say that as PR pros, we were built for the chaos COVID-19 threw at us. I’m proud to say that our chapter leaders quickly adapted to the ever evolving circumstances of the pandemic and the impact it had on our members, who were at the front and center of constantly changing messaging for their organizations. We pivoted our in-person programming to virtual webinars, realizing that now more than ever our membership was looking to PRSA for solutions. Whether it was how to communicate to a workforce working from home, planning virtual ribbon cuttings, to messaging sensitive information regarding those who became ill or died as a result of COVID-19, our chapter stepped up to bring in top-level experts, and industry leaders to provide tips and resources.

I’m extremely proud of our chapter leaders, who despite their own professional and personal challenges, never wavered in their commitment to the association and their peers.

How has your chapter leaned into Diversity, Inclusion and Equity?

We acknowledged that the PR industry as a whole is facing a challenge when it comes to attracting and retaining people of color and put our words into action to fix that. As our chapter’s first African American president, it is not lost on me the significance of the role and the responsibility that comes with it to ensure that the work we do as a chapter reflects the change we want to see throughout the industry. We have made a commitment to diversity and inclusion from our selection of speakers and topics to providing opportunities for training on the role of practitioners in holding the organization’s we serve accountable for doing the same. I’m also pleased to share that this year we will be bestowing our first annual Diversity scholarship to a minority college student and to a practitioner to encourage deeper chapter engagement and learning opportunities.

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement? Why?

I’m proud to say that we have many things to be proud of, especially our members impact on the profession. In fact, our chapter has produced three national presidents: William Werner, Edward VonderHaar and Judith Bogart.

Any little known facts about your chapter?

The Cincinnati Chapter has one of the highest numbers of APR professionals, currently there are 56 active APR’s in our chapter. For years we have put great emphasis on the importance of earning Accreditation. As part of those efforts, in 1992 under the presidency of Tom Schick, Dr. Edward Bernays, Fellow, PRSA, was our esteemed guest for our annual Accreditation Assembly. This event was held just weeks before Dr. Bernays’ 101st birthday.

What’s your secret to a happy chapter?

We encourage our members to get everyone involved early and often and to have some fun. We always say that you get out of PRSA what you put in. We know our members work hard every day guiding their agencies or companies through communication strategies, crisis and the like, so we really enjoy opportunities to network via happy hours or a Reds game to further build a sense of community.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?

Brandy Jones, APR, bjones@go-metro.com, 513-254-2587 (cell)



I visited Pittsburgh for a job interview years ago. On the way from the airport to WTAE-TV the cabbie mentioned, “You know about 80% of the population of Pittsburgh is born and raised in Allegheny County.”

I heard that factoid at least three more times before my flight home.

The people of Pittsburgh own their city, and the same can be said of PRSA Pittsburgh chapter members.

“The City of Neighborhoods,” the sixth most livable city in the U.S., is a big league metro with a hometown feel.

Likewise, PRSA Pittsburgh is an exciting, progressive chapter and a close-knit club. When industry legend Steve Radick or current Pittsburgh Business Times “30 Under 30” star Jordan Mitrik talk about their chapter, don’t expect to get a word in edgewise.

Why even try to stop them? They have a lot to say because they have accomplished much and have much more they want to do.

It’s fair to say the chapter leadership didn’t just pivot with COVID, they ran circles around it, increasing programming 131%. As Jordan said, “The pandemic forced us to break habits, form new ones and allowed us to focus on what mattered most within our Chapter: our members.”

To face the challenge of DEI, they leaned-in and then kept pushing. Most chapters would be proud of any one of their initiatives.  The PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Pledge is perhaps the most intriguing.  Read more in Jordan’s summary and decide for yourselves.

It takes hard work on the part of all PRSA chapters to keep their organizations alive and thriving, especially through a pandemic.  It’s beyond impressive to see the Pittsburg members devote volunteer time, sweat equity, and talent to not just their chapter, but to public service across their community.

Maybe that’s what makes Pittsburgh a “City of Neighborhoods.” Every neighborhood is your neighborhood.

A lot of water has run through the Three Rivers since my cab ride in Pittsburgh. The city now balances a population of “Born and Raised” with the “Born and Moved Away.” But a “Fun Fact” Jordan offers about the Pittsburgh Chapter speaks volumes about why so many natives and neighbors always have Pittsburgh on their minds.


 Completed by Jordan Mitrik, 2020-21 PRSA Pittsburgh President 

  Give us a brief history of your chapter (when it was founded, how many members). 

 PRSA Pittsburgh was chartered in 1953 – so for all the PR pros who don’t like math like me – we’re celebrating 68 years as a Chapter!  

 For several years, we’ve consistently maintained a membership of more than 200 professionals within the western Pennsylvania region. However, as all Chapters across the country are experiencing, we’ve seen a slight decrease within the past year as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently at approximately 180 members, but we are looking forward to seeing this increase again as we adapt to our new normal.  

 At our core, our Chapter’s vision is to create an exceptional member experience that educates, inspires, guides and galvanizes a diverse community of ethical, strategic communications professionals in our region. 

 We also are the proud sponsoring Chapter to 12 PRSSA Chapters at California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University, Duquesne University, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst University, Point Park University, Robert Morris University, Slippery Rock University, Washington & Jefferson College, Waynesburg University, and Westminster College. 

 Who are your current executive officers? 

President | Jordan Mitrik, Brunner 

Vice President  | Robin Rectenwald, WordWrite 

Secretary | Kristen Wishon, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council 

Treasurer | Darcey Mamone, NAMI  

Assistant Treasurer | Brian Ackermann, Health+Commerce 

 Describe your membership. (General professional representation). 

 Most of our members service industries in line with those that lead the economy of the Pittsburgh region, including: healthcare, transportation, banking and utilities.  

 That said, overall membership continues to span across virtually all organizational settings. Our current breakdown includes:   

  • 30% — Corporate 
  • 30% — Agency 
  • 14% — Nonprofit 
  • 14% — Education 
  • 12% — Other 

We also have an interesting breakdown as it relates to how long our members have spent in the industry, with 26% having less than 5 years of experience (which we consider young professionals), 38% having 6—19 years of experience, and 36% having 20+ years of experience.  

 In addition, we have 11 members Accredited in Public Relations and 3 in the PRSA College of Fellows!  

What is normally your biggest project of the year? 

 We host the annual PR Summit – our largest professional development conference – which is geared towards both our PRSA members and surrounding PRSSA Chapter members. We’ve tackled topics ranging from PR disruption and the search for authenticity, to failing forward and how communicators can turn their mistakes into lessons learned. In 2020, we hosted weekly virtual presentationsfeaturing topics in recognition of Global Diversity Awareness Month and facilitated hard conversations worth discussing regarding mental illness, ageism, race, and more in the PR industry. We’re currently in the process of planning our 2021 event, which will discuss misinformation in the media and the communicator’s role guarding against it!  

 Our biggest non-professional development event is our Renaissance Awards — which attracts between 150 to 230 professionals each year. Our 2021 ceremony, held virtually for the first time ever, recognized more than 30 different communication campaigns and tactics created in 2020 from some of the most recognizable brands both regionally and nationally such as Duquesne Light Company, Highmark, Pittsburgh Zoo, Starkist and The Home Depot. 

 How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic? 

 The pandemic forced us to break habits, form new ones and allowed us to focus on what mattered most within our Chapter: our members. We immediately prioritized new ways to offer valuable programming virtually through Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook or email communication that we likely wouldn’t have done during any other year. As a result, we more than doubled the number of opportunities for members and increased programming by 131% YoY. We also adapted quickly by reinstating a Diversity & Inclusion Chair position and forming a committee to build awareness of D&I standards, resources, and best practices for communications professionals (more on that later!). 

 In addition, we put a greater emphasis on our young professionals within our membership, including PRSSA students and recent graduates in the area, many of whom felt lost and defeated as it pertained to launching a career due to the uncertainty that stemmed from the pandemic. In 2020, we launched a private Facebook Group specifically for professionals and pre-professionals with less than 5 years of experience in our region. We regularly host Facebook Live events, share job and internship postings, and offer AMA events that have allowed members to virtually network with peers that share their industry commitment and help them understand the unique challenges that new professionals and students face.  

 We currently have more than 250 professionals and pre-professionals in the Group!  

 How is your chapter leaned into Diversity, Inclusion and Equity? 

 As previously mentioned, in 2020, our Chapter reinstated a Diversity & Inclusion Chair position as a mandatory board member after the role was vacant the last few years. We then quickly formed a D&I Committee underneath the position, simply because we needed a dedicated task force to tackle the lack of diversity in the PR industry.  

 Now more than ever, we are committed to elevating the voices and telling the stories of those who are so often unheard in the PR industry. Some of our Chapter’s efforts (so far) include: 

  • Established a workflow that ensures our efforts support D&I initiatives in four categories: 1) content, 2) audience appeal, 3) speaker / panelists and 4) impact; 
  • Developed PRSA Pittsburgh’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for those who want to learn about the significance of D&I to the PR industry; 
  • Held a lunch & learn panel discussion with local D&I professionals representing DICK’s Sporting Goods, PPG, and the Pittsburgh Penguins to discuss recent events and the ways in which communicators can implement D&I efforts in our workplaces and communities; 
  • Held a programming event entitled, “Empowering Tomorrow’s PR Leaders: PR Girl Manifesto Joins PRSA Pittsburgh for Black History Month” with guest speaker Fatou Barry, brand strategist and founder of PR Girl Manifesto
  • Created and distributed the PRSA Pittsburgh Diversity & Inclusion Pledge for members to virtually sign and commit to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

 In addition, and perhaps one of our most rewarding efforts to date, we created and awarded our first annual Black Excellence Award in response to the lack of diversity in the profession, particularly in the Pittsburgh region, and to show young professionals there is a home for them in the Pittsburgh PR community. This endowment grants $2,000 to and is intended to assist and recognize a new graduate who is of African American / Black ancestry – working in the PR, marketing or communications field – for outstanding academic achievement and commitment to the practice of public relations in the region. We presented the first award, sponsored by BCW Global, this year at our Renaissance Awards to Isabella Moreland of Gateway Health.  

 What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?  Why?

I must admit, I’m so proud of all the work that our board of directors, committees, and member volunteers have accomplished in the last 18 months while I’ve served as Chapter President, that it’s hard to pick just one!  

 Aside from some of the efforts I’ve already shared, perhaps the Chapter’s proudest achievement is our ongoing commitment to public service and giving back to Pittsburgh organizations that need it most, particularly in 2020.  

 For as long as I can remember, our Chapter has had a dedicated Public Service Chair and Committee responsible for implementing one public service project to support the communications efforts of an area nonprofit. At the beginning of the pandemic, we realized it was more important than ever for us to rally around the Pittsburgh-area nonprofits that were in greatest need, so we adjusted the focus to help area-nonprofits deeply affected by COVID-19. 

 After receiving many moving responses to our RFP, we selected, for the first time ever, two nonprofits – Pittsburgh Hires Veterans and Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) Pittsburgh – and offered pro bono support over the course of six months.  

 As a result, our committee provided the two-person staff at Pittsburgh Hires Veterans strategic counsel for social media, email marketing, and media relations. For SWSG, the committee delivered communications and marketing support for their first-ever virtual 2020 Strong Awards, their primary fundraising event. Through these efforts, SWSG surpassed its ticket sales revenue by 150%, received 3.95 million impressions for the Strong Awards through media outreach, and the event had more than 300 individuals in attendance, doubling its results YoY during their 2019 in-person event.  

 This year, we’ve continued our trend of doubling our public service efforts and are partnering with two new organizations – Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania and When She Thrives – and will be supporting them with overall brand direction and strategic communications efforts for fundraising initiatives, respectively.   

 It was truly inspiring to watch our members give their time to work with these organizations that experienced a challenging year, especially knowing it was a challenging year for everyone.   

 Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share? 

 We’re excited to have our Pittsburgh Chapter represented at the National level! Ben Butler, APR, former Chapter President, currently serves as a Senior Counsel Member to PRSA’s 2021 Board of Directors. He also recently served as the PRSSA 2018-2020 National Professional Adviser.  

 We also have members of our Pittsburgh Chapter that live outside western Pennsylvania! 5% of our membership don’t call Pennsylvania their current home and reside in the surrounding states of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Ohio.  

 What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”? 

A dedicated and diverse board of directors. Our group consists of individuals of all ages, experience, and walks of life – from 2020 college graduates to professionals with 40 years of experience – and having that diversity has challenged our thinking, offered great dialogue, expanded our perspective, pushed our creativity, and ultimately resulted in more opportunities for our members. We’ve continued traditional tactics that we know work while introducing new channels, topics, and ways of working into the mix that have helped us evolve. Our members have appreciated our adaptability, and that’s all we can ask for.  

 Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you? 




PRSA Northwestern Pennsylvania provides a wonderful example of how chapters large and small share the same goals of advancing the profession and providing benefit for their members. Northwestern PA states the case that no matter the membership, every chapter has value.

Our thanks go to Northwestern PA Chapter President Larry Klick for providing the information and insights into what makes Northwestern click.

Though a small chapter, Northwestern stood tall during the tumultuous times of COVID and civil unrest.  “We co-sponsored a panel discussion with Erie News Now titled Delivering the Message which was live streamed through their website and various social media channels,” said Larry.

“It focused on the role of public relations in helping to mitigate unprecedented levels of unrest driven not only by the pandemic, but also by the BLM movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.”

As Larry reveals in this month’s Chapter Spotlight, Northwestern survives as a unique organization in the Erie area.

Erie is the fourth-largest city in Pennsylvania, but small enough to appear as the hometown of the fictional band “The Wonders” in the Tom Hanks film “That Thing You Do!”

The city was named for the Native American Erie people. The Iroquois gave up ownership to the Erie Triangle after the American Revolutionary War, and Pennsylvania later bought the land for 75 cents per acre.

Erie is known as the “Flagship City” because of its status as the home port of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship Niagara. Perry won the historic Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

Today the Northwestern chapter recognizes local PR professionals with its Niagara Awards.

Give us a brief history of your chapter.

The PRSA NWPA Chapter was founded in 2010 with 10 members. The latest count is 23 members.

Who are your current executive officers?

President: Larry Klick

Past President: Joelyn Bush

Secretary: Lisa Graff

Treasurer: Michele King

Describe your membership

The chapter, while on the smaller side, covers a vast majority of the Marketing & Communication spectrum. Our membership runs the gamut of professionals from large corporations to outstanding local non-profits and everything in between.

What is normally your biggest project of the year?

The Niagara Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement among local marketing and communication professionals.

How has your chapter pivoted with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Like everyone else, we developed a system to shift our educational events and board meetings into a virtual setting. We’ll be exploring the possibilities of live streaming events to reach the largest audience possible, while also providing replay options for anyone who may not have been able to attend. While we are all chomping at the bit to get back to live events, it’s important to be mindful of those who may not be as enthusiastic about the notion.

How has your chapter leaned into Diversity, Inclusion and Equity?

We’ve embraced the opportunity to invite some of the most brilliant local leaders to speak to our membership about DE&I. On September 24, 2020, we co-sponsored a panel discussion with Erie News Now titled Delivering the Message which was live streamed through their website and various social media channels. It focused on the role of public relations in helping to mitigate unprecedented levels of unrest driven not only by the pandemic, but also by the BLM movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

In February we hosted a virtual seminar featuring Dr. Rhonda Matthews which was titled Inclusivity Matters: Understanding and Avoiding Bias in Communication. This offering focused on how to identify barriers to effective communication, understand them, and avoid their use in order to form stronger connections with the audience. We’re looking to have a similar offering in October of this year.

What is your chapter’s proudest achievement?  Why?

In 2013, NWPA PRSA and Edinboro University PRSSA shared the Teahan Award for Outstanding PRSA-PRSSA Chapter Relationship. The Teahan Awards are PRSSA’s annual national awards program recognizing outstanding chapter performance in various categories.

Any “little known/fun facts” about your chapter to share?

The PRSA NWPA Chapter is one of the last professional organizations in the Erie area dedicated to Marketing and Communication professionals. Additionally, the chapter utilizes an innovative idea in the form of a nonprofit scholarship. A handful of these are awarded each year to local professionals encouraging the involvement of potentially underfunded nonprofits in PRSA. The idea was so well received that our friends in the Greater Cleveland Chapter adopted a similar concept!

What’s your secret to a “happy chapter”?

An excellent Board of Directors that collaborates on educational and social events geared toward adding value to a PRSA membership.

Do you have a preferred contact email in case other ECD chapters have a question for you?  prsanwpa@gmail.com

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